My friend Pakistan and I briefly parted ways when he progressed to Kolkata for a man-meeting pertaining to purse production. I was to meet him the following day in India's British capitol.
Previous train rides we had tackled comprised Class One Tier One Sleeper Class with Air Conditioning. And fans. Train personnel provided a face towel, sheets, a blanket, and a pillow as plush as my breasts. So as flat as an orangutan's forehead. But a pillow nonetheless. Passengers subsumed middle-to-upper-class, some families, a lot of businessmen. No alcohol. I might as well have been in a mosque. On one ride, an Indian gentleman proclaimed to Pakistan that I was inappropriately clothed in soccer shorts and a sleeveless shirt. It was over one hundred degrees. I am not a camel.
For my first solo train trip, I selected Sleeper Class, no AC, no tier. Reserved seating confirmation comforted my curiosity and I entered the train as inquisitive as Dora the Explorer. The train ride was reminiscent of Class One Tier One with Air Conditioning. The seats were synonymous. The people in both classes appeared parallel. Until the subsequent stop. A man muddled onto the train mumbling in Hindi. Or Bengali. Or Sanskrit. Or snail-speak. My language learning has been as successful as Paris Hilton's singing career.
After the entering/exiting envoys and the voyaging vendors peddling anything from mango juice to batteries ceased, the train embarked to its ensuing destination. And then I saw a muttering head. A man-head, squinting around a divider into our section. Eight fingers hooked around the wall, one hand above, one hand below the head. The fingers mirrored thin sausages summoning me. Resulting from the beef and pork scarcity through Buddhist and Hindu India, I have been daily envisioning meat products. Rocks reform as hamburgers, leaves transform into pepperoni, and fingers shift to sausages. Indian food equals being bitch-slapped coupled with childbirth. Hindus don't consume beef, Buddhists don't eat pork. My meat-deprived stomach has been suffering like Victoria Beckham's emaciated body.
The man's wall embrace simultaneous to his squinted eyes spoke one word to me: drunk. I sympathized with the signs. Boozer stammered one unsteady step before pitching into the train floor like a paralyzed penguin. This was only temporary though, as his body basketball-bounced and he ended with his legs and arms apart, balancing. My first thought was to wonder if he ricocheted from the floor because he was cognizant that it was coated with food crumbs, ants and insects, dirt, and trash. My second was a contemplation of whether he had ever surfed. His intoxicated surf-stance balance was as impressive as my friend fist-fighting with seven bouncers and then getting arrested only on drunk in public charges.
Boozer karate-kicked his sandals into the air, one foot after the other, and then collapsed onto a bench/bed like he had just encountered an elephant tranquilizer. The other passengers ignored him like they would a belligerent boozy great-grandmother at a family function. I gawked at him, willing him to regain consciousness to entertain me. He never did. Neither my internal encouragement nor the external efforts of multiple transvestite's lap dances breathed life into his brain.
The next morning he awoke from his cocktail-coma seeming as confused as the morning I woke up on our living room couch during college. I had fallen asleep in my own bed down the hallway. I detached the blanket from my body to find a fully-clothed female friend encircling my legs like she was four and my appendages were her favorite stuffed animal.
Boozer's ultimate dilemma: one of his kicked-off sandals went unaccounted for. Two hours later, at Howrah, the last train stop, he was still shuffling with one sandal.